BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Nearly 21,000 Louisiana businesses received more than $262 million in grants to help them weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, under a program managed by state Treasurer John Schroder and financed by lawmakers with federal aid.
The grants averaged about $12,650, the Republican state treasurer said of a program that ended in December after it ran out of cash and hit a federally mandated deadline to spend the coronavirus money.
“The Main Street Recovery Grant Program kept businesses open,” Schroder said Thursday. “It gave businesses a fighting chance.”
Of the 20,751 businesses that received grants, Schroder said nearly half had gotten no assistance from other federal grant programs created by Congress to help struggling companies. Grants went to retailers, restaurants, construction companies, real estate rental businesses, manufacturers, agriculture businesses and more. A full list of the grantees is available on the treasurer's office website.
The state's grant program denied nearly 14,000 Louisiana businesses because they didn't meet criteria set by state lawmakers. Another 6,000 applicants were deemed eligible, but the program had no money to give them.
Lawmakers set aside $275 million in federal coronavirus aid for the program, which offered grants up to $15,000 to help businesses with expenses related to the pandemic. Schroder's office spent more than $12 million — slightly less than the $15 million lawmakers made available — for administrative costs.
To be eligible, businesses had to be located in Louisiana. They couldn't have had more than 50 full-time workers as of March 1, 2020, before Louisiana saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19. They couldn't be a subsidiary of or owned by a larger company with more than 50 full-time employees.
Lawmakers guaranteed that $40 million must be spent on grants to assist minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses. Schroder said four times that amount, $161 million, went to businesses in those categories.
Of the nearly 21,000 grant recipients, Schroder said 166 companies submitted fraudulent applications and shouldn't have gotten assistance. The treasurer's office is demanding they return the $1.5 million they received, and 107 were turned over to the state's inspector general for further fraud investigations.